Top Doc: Dr. Joseph Meharg

Dr. Joseph "Jody" Meharg

Since 1996, Rhode Island Monthly has profiled more than three dozen specialists voted tops in their field by their peers. NBC 10 has partnered with the magazine to profile some of them.

When we first met Dr. Joseph "Jody" Meharg, in the Intensive Care Unit at Roger Williams Medical Center five years ago, he was educating medical students about the threat of bacteria.

In the past few years, he says the number of hospital-acquired infections is down, one in particular.

"There was a bacteria called acinetobacter which had the potential to run rampant through the ICU from one patient to the other," Meharg said.

He said a special mouthwash has almost eradicated that bacteria.

"What's an honor and a privilege about the ICU is that you have to help get the patient's family and loved ones through the whole ICU experience, good or bad," Meharg said.

"Day one you can be hated. I can be hated and that's OK, and you hang tough," he said. "Wait to day five or six, everything's good and the patient's leaving the ICU and the patient waves at you and the family says, 'You know we really didn't like you on day one.'"

Perhaps it's his dry sense of humor that endears him to his patients, or the sense that he really cares. At any rate, Meharg is an annual favorite on the list of Top Docs. Maybe it's because of the deep respect he has for his patients and their families.

"People who you don't know, never met and suddenly, you're a really integral part of their life and you have this bond with them and they tell you things that you really feel that you don't deserve to know," Meharg said. "That kind of experience is humbling and this top doctor thing is humbling."

Meharg is one of five doctors specializing in critical care medicine who made this year's list of Top Docs in Rhode Island Monthly. The issue will be on newsstands April 29.